happens when you have a meeting of dynamic
guitars and meaty aggressive vocals delivering
songs cut from the perfect cloth of melodic
metal? You get a BRAND all its own. "BRANDED" is
the new release from Kivel recording artists TNA.
Some bands usually lead with their best material
on the first time out and suffer a sophomore let
down curse that has befallen many bands that
have come and gone. This is not the case however
with these four lads. They have flipped the
script as some would say, and definitely saved
the best for act II. "Branded" shines a light on
what was the best elements of the bands first
album and then enhanced it to a new level. Dare
I say that album 3 should be even a bigger
corker of an album and leave people whipping
their brow in exhaustion of such a brutal
assault on the rock senses. Sean Tarr has
stepped up to the deck and taken charge
masterfully with his brand of playing. This
album is not a album short on guitars, it is a
album that will have guitar album fans
salivating and wondering where has this man been
hiding all this time! I dare say that Sean's
second time out, is as if a man possessed and
out to avenge something or someone. God only
knows who or what, rest assured though he will
succeed. The Loudest Rock had a chance to sit
down with this demon possessed guitar player and
get down to the meat of things.
The Loudest Rock: Sean what was the
main inspiration behind the new album 'Branded'?
And how would you describe it's sound?
Sean Tarr: A lot has changed since
'Trigger' was released and everybody feels
differently about the future of America and the
world in general. Without going into a discourse
on all the ramifications of 9/11 and our current
government I can tell you this: we're a lot
angrier now than we were when we recorded
'Trigger'! Hey, I love to party as much as the
next guy and am generally upbeat but.... the
bubble has burst and we are toe to toe with some
very unhappy shit these days. As far as the
overall sound, we wanted this album to be as big
and ballsy as possible yet melodic and warm,
human sounding if you will. The best of old and
new. We wanted this album to be contemporary
sounding without compromising the overall
melodic feel. I wanted more organic sounds,
especially with the guitars. Only vintage gear
was used on this record in regards to the guitar
sounds. I agree with Lenny Kravitz, that it
makes for a bit more warmth. Something
definitely lacking in a lot of todayís hard
The Loudest Rock: 'Trigger' was more of a
straight ahead fun record, that touched upon
some mature topics, as opposed to the average
80s era band. This album shows alot of growth
and a bit of a transition, similar to how SKID
ROW evolved between the first and second album.
With that said, do you feel you have matured as
musicians and as songwriters since 'Finger on
Sean Tarr: Absolutely! You can't help
but move forward in my opinion because life
changes you in small ways everyday. Granted it
isn't always dramatic, at least in the public's
eyes, but no two songs are exactly alike no
matter what. Every time we record we try to push
our own envelopes. I hope it's obvious with
The Loudest Rock: My personal favorite song
from "Finger On The Trigger" was the ballad "Let
Me Down Easy". It to me was an incredibly well
written song. What was the inspiration behind
it? Did you take a similar approach to the newer
Sean Tarr: Well, I think you take
whatever approach you can when it comes to
writing! I try not to follow any kind of formula
per say but rather follow whatever melody I'm
working on at the time, what makes sense for the
flow of the song. It's all about a good hook at
the core then the overall dynamics come into
play. What is the emotion you're trying to get
across? Anger, pain, happiness, anticipation,
sorrow etc....All of these things have to fit
together like a puzzle. Sometimes you hit the
mark, sometimes you don't.
Loudest Rock: What's goes through your mind
during pre-production? How do you tackle the
task of creating your music? What were the
writing sessions for "Branded" like, and was
there alot of practice session to fine-tune the
Sean Tarr: Sometimes Mike or myself
have demos already recorded from home, which we
bring in. Sometimes we're lucky enough to
collaborate with an outside writer or sometimes
it's just a riff we all work out on the spot and
turn into a song. Whatever works. We're all
pretty open minded and flexible in the early
stages of the writing process. It's usually
later after we all formulate very definite ideas
of how we want something to sound when the
sparks start flying. It's all about getting in a
rehearsal room and grinding it out. Everybody
brings something to the table and the songs
aren't really born until everybody puts their
stamp on them. The only way that happens is by
playing the tunes over and over. Tweaking and
playing, tweaking and playing until you're
singing them in your sleep! The fine-tuning
usually takes place when we actually start
recording and everybody hears the individual
The Loudest Rock: Please give us your
thoughts on band now as opposed to 2 years ago.
Sean Tarr: We're much more focused
now. We all love this record 100% as opposed to
'Trigger' which was more love/hate. We are ready
to hit it hard!
The Loudest Rock: What songs get you
going when you hear them off the new album?
Sean Tarr: "Kill Your Idols", "Scream
(NYC)", "Walk Before You Crawl".
The Loudest Rock: The band seems to
have a more 'gritty' look and image with the new
photos. The session doesn't seem to be the
'typical' band photo. What was the inspiration
and idea by doing a shoot in a warehouse?
Sean Tarr: We wanted a modern, gritty
look because we're feeling kind of gritty and
edgy these days. We definitely wanted a
no-nonsense in your face kind of feel that would
match the feel of the songs.
The Loudest Rock: Your guitar solos and
general playing style are quite unique...
Sean Tarr: why thank you.
The Loudest Rock: ...and reminded me
alot of Ed Campbell (ex-AdrianGale guitarist)
where your solos seem to float ontop of the main
chord progression whilst being very soul filled
which I find that is adds alot of feeling and
purpose to the song. Is there a particular way
you approach your solos?
Sean Tarr: To me it's all about note
selection. Whatever you play, at whatever speed
you play it, its got to sing. It's got to
compliment the overall attitude and feel of the
song not fight it. There are many different ways
to go about this but style aside, it's either
good or it's bad. You can't fake it.
The Loudest Rock: Any interesting/funny
stories from the studio?
Sean Tarr: We were recording Mike's
lead vocals. At the Latt Kave, Anthony, (head
engineer on the album) has a few of these fake
bush-tree things in between two of the couches.
It seemed like one of these bush-tree things was
falling on someone almost daily. Back to Mikes
vocals......evidently, John Kivel didn't see it
coming and the tree fell on him. He let out a
yelp of surprise that was so loud that the
microphone in the vocal booth picked it up
between two lines that Mike was singing at the
time. I'm not sure but if you listen carefully
you might just hear John Kivel's yelp on
Loudest Rock: How do you feel about the
current state of the music industry and where
itís headed as a whole??
Sean Tarr: I personally think there is
almost no imagination left in the industry. It's
nothing like it used to be. Big labels don't
take chances anymore, A&R people are too afraid
for their jobs to take a chance on something
that isn't a sure thing. Not that I blame them
in light of the current economy. CD sales are
down, it's cheaper to go the file-sharing route.
It's pretty grim out there unless you're a
rapper or Britney Spears. Hell, MTV should
simply re-name themselves 'TV'. Where's the
music? It's cool watching Ozzie and all but I
wish they would revert back to the old format
where they actually played videos.
The Loudest Rock: What is your opinion of
the 'digital age' of music with the advent of
MP3 files and such.
Sean Tarr: I think it will eventually
kill the 'CD' as we know it. Why buy a CD when
you can just download files and store them in
your computer and MP3 players? What's more,
digital technology and the Internet have created
a medium the recording industry will never be
able to fully regulate I'm afraid and that's a
shame. Not for the big labels, God knows they
make enough money regardless but for the
artists! When you download music without paying
for it you are stealing somebody's hard
work/property and literally taking the food off
their table in some cases! Not all of us are
wealthy rock stars. In fact the majority of us
are anything but! Karma gets us all in the end
so follow your conscience.
The Loudest Rock: What tips would you
give to beginning musicians?
Sean Tarr: Learn your instrument! Take
pride in what you do and aspire to be as good as
you possibly can be, don't shortcut anything. It
comes back to haunt you or reward you in the
end. There are too many bands out there with
mediocre players, therefore mediocre bands.
Visualize yourself doing what you want to do be
it in the studio or on stage. It also helps to
have a truly talented role model. There aren't
as many as there used to be unfortunately. At
least from a guitarist's point of view I don't
see many Eddie VanHalen's or Jimmy Page's or
Jeff Beck's out there anymore. There was a time
when every time you turned around there was
somebody blowing your mind with their playing.
The Loudest Rock: Now it has been mentioned that
you guys have opened for some of the biggest
bands back in the day from SKID ROW to WINGER
etc. How does it feel to know that you guys are
still going strong while some of the bands you
opened for are no longer together.
Sean Tarr: It feels good to still be
doing this after all these years, I feel very
fortunate. As Zakk Wylde once said, "If you've
got a guitar in your hands you're winning."
The Loudest Rock: What Gear was used in
the recording of "Branded"?
Tarr: I used about 8 different guitars on
"Branded". Mostly vintage guitars, and a few new
ones. I loved playing the 85' charvel strat.
Most of the solos were done with that guitar.
The 84' Gibson Flying V was one of my favorites
as well as the Gretsch 6120 Setzer Hot Rod
model. Now I know why Brian Setzer always plays
one, they sound incredible! Everything was
pumped through a 69' Marshall 100 watt super
lead and 50 watt Hiwatt DR 504. You can't beat
the old amps cranked up. You've gotta push some
The Loudest Rock: Now for the question
we ask every band that comes through TLR! If you
could form your dream team band...who would it
be and would you include yourself in it?
Sean Tarr: Damn what a question.! Lets
say I wasn't in the band:
Michael Schenker--Guitars (Best
combination of tone and note selection)
Eddie Van Halen-- (Lets face it, he
re-invented modern electric rock guitar. Nobody
more fun to listen to.)
Tommy Aldrige--Drums (Rock solid, great
John Paul Jones---Bass (One of the best
rock bassists ever!)
Steven Tyler---Vocals (This guy is
amazing. He sounds better than ever and pours
out more soul and gritty, sexy rock n' roll
attitude than anyone.
God knows what that would sound like but they
all kick ass at what they do. If I were in the
band, it would be the guys I'm playing with
right now. I'm already there. :)
Loudest Rock: Any parting words for the fans
and board dwellers?
Sean Tarr: Thank you for supporting
the bands and the music TLR supports. I truly
believe rock is making a comeback and it's
because of all of you. It's all about the fans,
musician and non-musician alike. Without you
there would be nothing.
Thanks Sean, it was a pleasure speaking with
you, Good luck with the album! I'm sure the TLR
family will love it! Look for a sitdown with the
voice behind the TNA Mic, Mike McManomon, in two
Interview by Patrick Rankine - TLR.COM
All photos by Kent Miller @